What a difference 8 weeks makes. Back in week 1, it was snowy and frigid and absolutely miserable. Even a week ago today I was wearing heavy winter gear. Now it’s 70 degrees out. Amazing.
March was a month of madness. Not the stupid kind having to do with basketball. I posted previously about hitting a rough patch in training. It was frustrating, but even at the time I knew it was a consequence of being out of the loop for so long. February is always one of my least favorite months anyhow. March, shoved right up against it, is one of my favorites, and not only because it’s my birthday month (though that’s a big reason). And this time around, March’s madness was a full-scale reversal: it was an awesome month for my training.
I was killing tempo runs, obliterating track workouts, and feeling good on long runs. Mind you: the quality workouts didn’t feel particularly good, but mentally I was in the game. I hit a rhythm, and I logged some of my best workouts since early fall last year. As far as I can tell, I’ve caught up on all the ground I lost during the long break after Philly.
BUT. Just as I experienced a meteoric return to running prowess, I had to come down at some point. The weekend after traveling to Athens, GA to spend Easter with my family, I journeyed to Knoxville, TN to spend Friday through Monday at Oak Ridge National Labs, getting acquainted with the people there and with the project I’ll be working on for the duration of the coming summer. Two travel weekends in a row is tough enough, but I wasn’t able to take a day off from work this past weekend as a result.
My long run this past weekend while in Knoxville was a 10-mile progression run.
Even though I nailed all my goal splits–first 4 miles easy, next 3 at half-marathon goal pace + 15 seconds, last 3 at half-marathon goal pace–it didn’t feel very good. And maybe that was the point, but even during the easy miles I never felt myself slide into a rhythm. At that point I’d been in Knoxville for three full days: I hadn’t been sleeping well, I was eating out all the time (massive portions + unhealthy ingredients = system shock), and if I wasn’t at Oak Ridge getting up to speed on my future work, I was in the hotel catching up on my current work. So it’s understandable.
I ventured out for an easy 6-miler Tuesday morning after returning to Pittsburgh the previous evening, and met with more or less the same feeling: I was out of sync. Again, I hit all my splits–even some rapid-fire hill repeats in the middle–but it didn’t feel too great.
So this morning, in lieu of my scheduled easy 3-miler, I skipped it completely and did 30 minutes of yoga instead.
Some of you may say, “but this exists!! :”
On one hand, I agree. Even when I’ve felt like total shit, I’ve never regretted a workout. Ever. And the workouts I’ve been the most grateful for doing are those which have required the most self-talk to pry myself out of bed in the mornings.
That being said, there’s something for taking a day off when you need it. Obviously this is different for everyone, but for me personally, running is a stress relief provided I haven’t passed a “point of no return”. For me, running throws wide open a window of relaxation, but it can’t create one if it doesn’t already exist. For me, what can create that window are: more sleep, yoga, taking a day off (out of 7, thank you very much) from doing any work, writing, or playing board games, among many others. If I’m running with no window to relax, I start burning the candle at both ends, which is what happened to me at the tail end of Philly training last November. I still never regretted any single workout, but the key point is that I never let my body rest and recover.
This month is going to be really hard. I’m trying to apply lessons from last fall to keep the workload manageable, allow myself time to relax, and therefore keep running in its ultimate form: to enjoy being alive. I’ve already polished off my final homework assignments for the semester, and all that stands between me and the end of academic obligations before the summer are two projects, one of which is already underway. They’re both due right before the Pittsburgh half, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how well I manage things.
I have a 7-mile tempo run tomorrow. I’m hoping today’s rest will feed into tomorrow’s frenzy!
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